The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 12, 2014

Huntsville judge: Married women can't divorce in Alabama

— HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A judge ruled Wednesday that two women who were legally married in Iowa can't divorce in Alabama, which doesn't recognize same-sex marriages.

Circuit Judge Karen Hall of Huntsville issued a two-sentence order throwing out the uncontested divorce of Shrie Michelle Richmond and Kirsten Allysse Richmond.

Shrie Richmond filed the complaint this month saying the two were legally married in Dubuque, Iowa, in 2012. The suit said the two women, who are separated, no longer get along and want a divorce.

The other woman didn't fight the divorce. But the judge's decision said the case was being dismissed because laws in Alabama, which still prohibit same-sex unions, do not apply in such cases.

The Iowa Supreme Court overturned that state's ban on gay marriages in 2009, and state law requires couples seeking a divorce in the state to live there for one year beforehand.

Attorney Patrick Hill, who represents Shrie Richmond, said neither of the women wants to move to get a divorce.

"They're both from here in Alabama, and this is where their homes, family and friends are," he said.

Hill said the judge "did what she needed to do under the current state of the law in Alabama." He said he would appeal, either by asking Hall to reconsider her decision or going to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

"It allows us to begin the process of attempting to change the law," Hill said.

Seventeen states currently recognize same-sex marriage, and differing laws between states have led to similar court decisions.

In neighboring Mississippi, a woman who was legally married to another woman is asking the state to recognize their California marriage so she can get a divorce. In Kentucky, a federal judge has struck down that state's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, and couples in Missouri are challenging a similar law there.

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